First Impressions of the Garmin StreetPilot III by Wayne Orwig

1) Why you picked out the GPS you did.
I had used a GPS III+ for about two years. The III+ is a great tool, but the
memory and display are a little too small. But, knowing how rugged they are,
Garmin was at the top of the list.

2) What you like about your choice.
I like the large color screen on the StreetPilot III. It is a lot easier to
read and the color adds additional information.

I have already upgraded the memory to 128meg and keep it loaded with
MetroGuide maps. I can find the smallest most interesting route to any
Mexican restaurant within a 6 hour distance without a PC. :)

The auto routing is great. I normally use the StreetPilot on a motorcycle
out away from civilization. With auto routing set to avoid interstates and
the MetroGuide maps loaded, I have found out of the way roads I would never
have even thought about before. Yet, I'm going in a fairly direct path, if I
want. Usually I just glance down at the moving map, looking for a new road I
haven't been on before.

It is completely waterproof and is just as rugged as my GPS III+. Combined
with a RAM mount system, I can switch it between motorcycles and cars very

3) What you do not like about your choice?
In very bright direct sunlight, the display is hard to read. It is also a
battery hog, which is directly related to the display backlight. I use
rechargeable nicads and get about 8 hours if the display is nearly off, and
1/2 hour if the display is at max. External power is a must for normal use
and a bright display. At this price, a rechargeable battery should be

It is large and the features aren't of much use for hiking.

The initial software locked up a couple of times. A later software version
locked up MUCH more often. A few emails to Garmin support revealed they were
very friendly, but annoyingly clueless (they blamed it on radar beams). The
latest software (2.22) works fine.

The speaker is built into the cigarette lighter plug. Normally, this is
convenient. On my wife's car, that makes it nearly impossible to plug in. A
detachable speaker would be a great idea.

4) Your experiences in using your GPS receiver.
As I mentioned, I often use it on a motorcycle. Whenever a group of us get
together, I'm usually vote as the lead rider, because everyone knows that
I'll be exploring new roads that nobody knows about since I have the
detailed map moving in front of me.

I was camping last year in West Virginia. During the night a huge downpour
came along and flooded all of the roads to the campground. The campground
owners mentioned a jeep trail on top of the mountains. Sure enough, it was
on my MetroGuide maps. I was able to drive out following the GPS route. Most
of the people had to wait around for hours for the water to recede.

5) Does your GPS perform as you expected.
Generally, better than expected. When you load up a lot of maps in a big
memory, it does slow down the screen redraw rate which can be annoying. But
the ability to carry thousands of square miles of detailed map information
is great.

Once on a 200 mile trip, the auto routing wanted me to go 50 miles out of my
way to get on an interstate for part of the trip. I had to tell it to avoid
interstates in order to get there faster. I wish it had a quick 'scenic'
route setting in addition to the 'shortest' and 'fastest'. So the
autorouting isn't perfect, but I haven't seen any software that thinks like
I think, so it is just an oddity, not a problem. I usually use the auto
routing just to see what it may come up with.

As for accuracy, they have made it a little difficult to get to the GPS info
screen, so I seldom know how many satellites are in view. It always works,
so I don't bother to look. They use a street lock that makes it appear that
you are always perfectly on a street, so it is hard to determine the
accuracy of the maps or the signal.

6) How is the manual?
To be honest, I haven't looked at it much because it isn't much different
then the GPS III+ I had before. In particular I haven't been able to
determine why it has different settings for the vehicle type. I've set it to
'car' and set it to 'bicycle' and the routing and speed estimates are still
the same. The manuals says basically nothing about it other than it being
settable, it doesn't give detail on why.

7) Other comments.
I have a wish list:
Rechargeable batteries and charger standard.
Add a 'scenic' routing option so I don't need to work through menus to turn
on/off interstates.
A small durable RAM mount friendly attachment.
Gloved hand friendlier buttons.

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